Sugarcane issue impacts Lok Sabha polls

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The issues of sugarcane growing farmers and their pending arrears have impacted the Lok Sabha elections 2019. Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are the two major political states, where sugarcane farmers play an important role in shaping victory map for any political party. As many as 50 million cane farmers and their families are voters in the country and may change the fate of ruling and opposition parties in the country.

Taking note of the farmers’ dissent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to take up the issue in a public rally assuring them that he will pay every penny of farmers.

The cane arrears worth crores of rupees are pending with the sugar mills with the godowns having more than 12 million tonnes sugar stock unsold. Despite incentives, the exports are meagre due to international competition. Niti Ayog has stated that arrears have reached alarming levels.

As many as 500 mills took up crushing this year and produced more than 30 million tonnes of sugar. UP and Maharashtra that produces 60 per cent of sugar send 128 MPs to the Parliament. The cane prices impact the voting in these 128 Constituencies. Also according to experts, sugarcane crop is the most politically influential crop in the world.

The government regulates the cane prices and fixes quota for export. State-run banks grant the loan to farmers and mills. After mills run out of cash, public funds are spent to bail them out. Among the cane producing countries like Thailand, Brazil and Australia, India pays the highest cane price to farmers.

Politicians have control over mills since setting up of the first mill in the 1950s. More than half dozen ministers in Maharashtra own sugar mills.

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